NASA Fly-By at the George Observatory

At the end of November, the Space Shuttle Endeavor made its way back to Earth – and was rerouted to a base in California due to poor weather at Kennedy Space Center. To get the shuttle back to Florida and ready for its next trip to space, it was piggybacked on a modified 747 and flown cross-country on Dec. 11. When it passed over Houston, a science class taking place at the Museum’s George Observatory had a front row seat as it flew overhead. Here’s what Astronomer Barbara Wilson had to say about the experience:

IMG_3949crop
A photo of the shuttle – flown on the back of a modified 747 –
passing over the George Observatory in Brazos Bend State Park.

George Observatory/HMNS staff received this communication from NASA pilot Triple Nickel.

“For those who care the Shuttle landed in Ft Worth, if the weather is good Thursday the 747 will fly from Ft Worth down to JSC for a flyby and then back to Barksdale AFB.”

Then we received another notice from Flight Director Chuck Shaw of the actual flight path and times.  We watched the flight path on the Internet and figured out when the 747 with shuttle piggybacked on top would pass over the George Observatory,  all of the students and their Moms went up with us to the main observatory deck and we heard the plane first then saw it pass directly over the George Observatory at very low altitude.

Our home school students were here today taking a class on Origins of Flight and a Challenger Mission. 20 students were thrilled to get to see the Shuttle piggybacked on the 747!

The pictures are of the Space Shuttle being transported to NASA at 11:55 am today 12/11/08 and were taken by Laurie Knight, mother of two students attending classes. Thanks Laurie.

You can see more of Laurie’s photos (plus lots of other fabulous visitor-submitted photos of the Museum and its satellites) at the Houston Museum of Natural Science pool on Flickr or on Barbara’s Flickr photostream. You can also see another amazing closeup shot of how the 747 and the shuttle were piggybacked, taken by AlphaTangoBravo when the 747 came closer to the ground, here.

Teachers Cutting Up in the Classroom?

Life is beginning to get “back to normal” in the basement of the Museum post-Ike.   I’ve missed listening to the constant hum of children in our hallways - it really seemed like a different place without them.  I’m enjoying listening to the school groups right now, buzzing outside my door as I peruse the great photographs we took at our Exxon Mobil Teacher Workshop last night and write my blog.

The teacher training we had last night was awesome!  We were lucky to have a super-fun group of teachers.  They discovered how dissection is not just for “big kids” anymore.  We had teachers that teach pre-k and teachers that teach high school, and everyone left with great hands-on experiences and ideas for their classrooms.

The fun began by learning the anatomical terms you need to know for dissection.  Check out how teachers learned these tiresome terms in an amazingly fun way!  What a better way to excite your students than letting them bring a stuffed animal from home to label with fancy science terms?  Do you know where your posterior is?  I’ll give you a hint, I bet your sitting on it right now!

Then came the pickles.  Say what?  Yes, pickles.  Teachers practiced using dissection tools such as scissors, scalpels, tweezers, and probes, as they dissected a jumbo pickle.  Look at what a rockin’ job this teacher is doing with this pickle.  Don’t laugh, I bet you can’t find the dorsal side of a pickle!   

Did you know you can dissect a flower?  All you need is a flower and your bare hands.  Check out the flower parts this teacher is finding.  Do you know a petal from a pistil? 

Then things really got juicy, no, really, they did.  Squids for everyone!  Teachers got their own squid to dissect as Nicole Temple (Director of Youth Education) dissected a larger fresh squid from the Asian Market.  The teachers in this picture look very engaged.  Hey, check out the size of the chromatophores on this squid!

The teachers finished up the night by quickly dissecting an egg.  These smart teachers now know their albumen from their chalazae.  Can you say the same for yourself?

Science Doesn’t Sleep (8.19.08)

Hungry dolphin
He really knows himself.
Creative Commons License photo credit: robertpaulyoung

So here’s what went down after you logged off.

I reflect, therefore, I am: commonly known in elephants, dolphins and great apes, self-recognition has long been deemed a key determinate of advanced cognitive abilities in animals. Now, we’ve discovered that magpies can do it.

Back to school: kids are still savoring the last days of summer, but teachers spending their first days back at HMNS, soaking up science and learning ways to use the exhibits here to bring science to life for their students next year.

Another humpback whale is lost; this time, a calf, in the waters outside Sydney. It’s bonded to a yacht, and if an adult female doesn’t come by soon, it may not survive.

No wonder bees are dying in record numbers: their hives are filled with pesticides.

Coming soon – Robots: part of a balanced diet.

The 1918 flu epidemic killed between 20 – 100 million people worldwide; survivors of the epidemic alive today still have circulating antibodies to the disease, 80 90 years later.

An old wive’s tale that’s somewhat true: severe morning sickness increases the possibility of delivering a baby girl.